Writing in Troubled Times

The truth is that I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. I haven’t felt much like going on Facebook, or Twitter, or anything electronic. I’m forcing myself to write this post now . . . Why? I suppose because I’ve been feeling a bit invisible, as though if I don’t keep touch with the larger world out there, I might disappear. Not really, of course. I’m still a corporeal, very real person. I still wake up in the morning, eat, work. Sleep, sometimes. But I feel as though I do lose something, not being in touch.

It hasn’t been much fun to be in touch, lately. It hasn’t been much fun to look online, see the news, worry worry worry about where the world is going.

I realized this was a serious problem when I did not write any poems, not one, in January. I had promised myself that I would try to write poetry regularly, several times a month. That was why I started a poetry blog. It was incentive: I could write a poem, post it, and right away people could see it. I could get some sort of reaction. But January, nothing.

And now, just now, I realized I hadn’t written a blog post in February, not one. Even though I’ve been promising myself that I will start blogging more, particularly now that Facebook and Twitter are so much less fun. Facebook reaches the same twenty people over and over. Twitter is all depressing political news.

I’ve never found it this hard to write before. Oh, I’m writing . . . I have a book due, and I work on that! I’m working on it as fast and hard as I can. But I’ve always found it easy to write, and to write all sorts of things. Now, all I want to do is work on the book, which allows me to go in deep, to disappear into another time and place, to spend time being my characters rather than myself. All I want to do is escape into my own writing. Not communicate.

Perhaps the problem is, I don’t feel as though I have any particular wisdom to offer.

The sorts of problems I see in the news, I can’t fix, and have no fix for. I’m not the right person to tell you, call your congressman. Yes, call your congressman, but what I write about, what I think about, are deeper systems of values. I write about trees, and rocks, and birds. I write about fairy tales. I write about schools for witches. My writing is about what we should value, about the deeper magic of life. Not political positions, or not immediate ones, although I think politics infuses my writing. How could it not, when I was born behind the Berlin Wall, when my parents lived through 1956 in Hungary, when my grandparents lived through World War II? It’s always there . . . but I have little of value to say on current legislation.

So what do I add to the discourse? I’m not sure.

It’s incredibly facile to say, as some have said, that troubled times result in great art. Troubled times are as difficult for artists as for everyone else. They may result in some great works: great poems, great novels, great paintings. They also result in artists jailed, or prevented from traveling, or simply too poor to pursue the visions they’ve been given. I’m not any of those things — I have an incredible amount of freedom. Still, I find myself disheartened.

I suppose what I’ll have to do is simply force myself. I’ve always found that we cannot control how we feel, but we can control how we act. We can force ourselves to sit down, to stay at the page, to type the words, as I am typing them now. It seems to me that we are living in a cruel time, a time of wilful blindness, a time when so many of our leaders hold values that will result in illness, ignorance, death. In the destruction of the precious environment we live in. And not just our leaders — people all over the world who are greedy, unbelievably greedy. Who simply do not care that their wealth is built on the suffering of others.

I don’t get it.

I don’t know, maybe getting it is not my job. Maybe my job is simply to do the work I’ve been given, which is to teach, to write, to do the best I can, create the best I can, under the circumstances. And, when I don’t want to do it, force myself to, as I am forcing myself to write this now.

Here’s what I can say: Underneath it all, there is a ground to stand on, and that ground is a real system of values. Those values are caring for our world, compassion for our fellow inhabitants of it, love of beauty. Rejection of cruelty. Rejection of treating others as less than they are. Rejection of the idea that you must own and control in order to be happy. Celebration of creativity, which is the path to joy. Yes, that is more complicated in practice than in theory — isn’t everything?

In the end, all you can do is walk your own path, do your own work. My work, I’m pretty sure, is writing. So, onward . . .

(The image is Woman and Vase with Flowers by A.C.W. Duncan.)

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18 Responses to Writing in Troubled Times

  1. Cathleen White says:

    Theodora~ We need the beauty in your writing that you offer the world now more than ever as a reminder that there is another way to be, and there is hope in strong spirit and beauty. I love that you write about rocks and trees; some of my favorite Beings. Onward dear one. Offered with love, Cathleen

  2. Jon Awbrey says:

    I view the present condition as a disease that will have to run its course. We can treat it as best we know how, try to learn more about causes and cures, and hope the patient, our nation, survives.

  3. ronwodaski says:

    I’ve struggled with the same questions. In the end, my answer is a lot like yours: to keep doing what I do, maybe with some outer-derived purpose added to it, so a little less cavalierly.

    The painting inspired this little haiku this evening:

    Is it good, sitting
    behind the daisies? Does fate
    look around corners?

  4. Thank you for coming out to talk to us…perfect timing too–International Women’s Day world wide and many women and girls are participating in a one strike to illustrate what a world without women might be like. Meanwhile blessed be we…every one https://youtu.be/J3ukRUZV6Ks

  5. lsaboe says:

    Thank you. This helps.

  6. Martin says:

    Creating seems to be always difficult-to-hard, but moreso now that the trolls are out from under the bridge and banging about – makes one want to duck and run and/or hide among the trees and ferns….

  7. busybea231 says:

    Interesting thoughts, Theodora. It’s difficult, I know. Recently I’ve felt like pulling up the drawbridge to retreat into my own little space but I don’t think that’s the answer. We need to keep producing blog posts and poetry and essays. We need to keep reaching out to like-minded people so that we and others like us know that we are not alone.

    • I agree. šŸ™‚ Although sometimes it’s also good to pull up the drawbridge. It’s good to have a drawbridge to pull up . . . But yes, letting others know they’re not alone is so important!

  8. Have just found you, glad I did,

  9. Yes, I agree. Thank you for articulating the thoughtful.

  10. sylviecofresi says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have missed your writing; I love how there is a real sincerity to your writing.

  11. Matt Gleason says:

    I’ve only just discovered you, so now your facebook page might reach 21. I’m reminded of the line from Dead Poets Society where RW’s character says something to the effect of ‘we need engineers, scientists, doctors etc to live… but the artist gives us something to live for’ (not exact words, but that’s the spirit). That’s you. The images you paint with words are fascinating/insightful/mysterious. Politics/facebook/etc has opinions for days/months/years because anyone can participate. No one else can offer your unique artistry. Thank you for sharing.

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